Assessment
Questionnaire

Have a symptom?
See what questions
a doctor would ask.
 
Articles » Facts about Social Phobia: NIMH
 

Facts about Social Phobia: NIMH

Article title: Facts about Social Phobia: NIMH

Conditions: Social Phobia

Source: NIMH


How Common Is Social Phobia?

  • About 3.7% of the U.S. population ages 18 to 54 - approximately 5.3 million Americans - has social phobia in any given year.
  • Social phobia occurs in women twice as often as in men, although a higher proportion of men seeks help for this disorder.
  • The disorder typically begins in childhood or early adolescence and rarely develops after age 25.

What Causes Social Phobia?

Research to define causes of social phobia is ongoing.
  • Some investigations implicate a small structure in the brain called the amygdala in the symptoms of social phobia. The amygdala is believed to be a central site in the brain that controls fear responses.
  • Animal studies are adding to the evidence that suggests social phobia can be inherited. In fact, researchers supported by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) recently identified the site of a gene in mice that affects learned fearfulness.
  • One line of research is investigating a biochemical basis for the disorder. Scientists are exploring the idea that heightened sensitivity to disapproval may be physiologically or hormonally based.
  • Other researchers are investigating the environment's influence on the development of social phobia. People with social phobia may acquire their fear from observing the behavior and consequences of others, a process called observational learning or social modeling.

What Treatments Are Available for Social Phobia?

Research supported by NIMH and by industry has shown that there are two effective forms of treatment available for social phobia: certain medications and a specific form of short-term psychotherapy called cognitive-behavioral therapy. Medications include antidepressants such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), as well as drugs known as high-potency benzodiazepenes. Some people with a form of social phobia called performance phobia have been helped by beta-blockers, which are more commonly used to control high blood pressure.

Cognitive-behavior therapy is also very useful in treating social phobia. The central component of this treatment is exposure therapy, which involves helping patients gradually become more comfortable with situations that frighten them. The exposure process often involves three stages. The first involves introducing people to the feared situation. The second level is to increase the risk for disapproval in that situation so people build confidence that they can handle rejection or criticism. The third stage involves teaching people techniques to cope with disapproval. In this stage, people imagine their worst fear and are encouraged to develop constructive responses to their fear and perceived disapproval.

Cognitive-behavior therapy for social phobia also includes anxiety management training - for example, teaching people techniques such as deep breathing to control their levels of anxiety. Another important aspect of treatment is called cognitive restructuring, which involves helping individuals identify their misjudgments and develop more realistic expectations of the likelihood of danger in social situations.

Supportive therapy such as group therapy, or couples or family therapy to educate significant others about the disorder, is also helpful. Sometimes people with social phobia also benefit from social skills training.

What Other Illnesses Co-Occur With Social Phobia?

Social phobia can cause lowered self-esteem and depression. To try to reduce their anxiety and alleviate depression, people with social phobia may use alcohol or other drugs, which can lead to addiction. Some people with social phobia may also have other anxiety disorders, such as panic disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

For more information about social phobia and other anxiety disorders, write:

The Anxiety Disorders Education Program, National Institute of Mental Health
6001 Executive Blvd.
Room 8184, MSC 9663
Bethesda, MD 20892-9663

Or call 301-443-4513.

Publications and other information are also available online from the NIMH Website at http://www.nimh.nih.gov/ or by calling toll-free 1-88-88-ANXIETY (1-888-826-9438).

Publication No. OM-99 4171 (Revised)
Printed September 1999

Updated: December 07, 2000

| Publications Order Form |
| NIMH Home | Welcome | News and Events | Clinical Trials | Funding Opportunities |
| For the Public | For Practitioners | For Researchers | Intramural Research |
| Top |

For information about NIMH and its programs, please email, write or phone us.

NIMH Public Inquiries
6001 Executive Boulevard, Rm. 8184, MSC 9663
Bethesda, MD 20892-9663 U.S.A.
Voice (301) 443-4513; Fax (301) 443-4279
TTY (301) 443-8431

[Disclaimer, Copyright, and Privacy Notice]

 

By using this site you agree to our Terms of Use. Information provided on this site is for informational purposes only; it is not intended as a substitute for advice from your own medical team. The information on this site is not to be used for diagnosing or treating any health concerns you may have - please contact your physician or health care professional for all your medical needs. Please see our Terms of Use.

Home | Symptoms | Diseases | Diagnosis | Videos | Tools | Forum | About Us | Terms of Use | Privacy Policy | Site Map | Advertise